On April 17, 2024

Crêpe breakfast tradition at sport hill

Building a Killington Dream Lodge: Part 9

Dad was on a mission to build our ski lodge so wasn’t thrilled by invitations to escape our Killington work camp. But Mom and I were elated and ready to get off “the reservation” whenever we could.

When our friend Ann relayed an invitation from Walter and Emile to their Sunday crêpe breakfast, Mom and I, of course, said “yes!” We didn’t know what to expect but anything with crêpes sounded quite fancy. We dressed up for the occasion in the best work clothes we’d packed for the weekend. Most everything in Vermont, we were learning, is very likely jeans informal. Dad reluctantly agreed to attend but hated to lose the best hours of the day for making progress on our ski lodge.

Ann and her friends shared an old farmhouse across Route 100 from the Ottauquechee River. They named the house they purchased “Sport Hill” and divided the costs among themselves. Ann hand colored photos for a living soon moved from New York to Killington. That’s when she bought her very own cottage just up the road from Sport Hill where her close friends still arrived every weekend.

Sundays were special at Sport Hill. Walter and Emile, both Ukrainian, hosted the crêpe breakfasts which became the high point of our weekends.

Walter was a Merrill Lynch broker and had an apartment in New York. He was tall with a broad chest. I got the feeling he was wealthy and the leader of the group ski house. His friend, Émile, an eccentric artist, made colorful circular whirly-gigs and various inventions at home in New Jersey. He cared for his ailing father there.

Every weekend they drove to Sport Hill and invited friends to their grand event. Émile made a stack of delicate French crêpes and kept them coming throughout the meal. Each guest arrived with a special topping—homemade fruit jams and apple butter, maple syrup and maple cream, fresh berries from nearby orchards and farms with dollops on top of just-whipped cream. Mom’s “Ooh la la hot fudge sauce” was a big hit over ice cream and Émile’s crêpe. The toppings were served on a long buffet so we popped up and down with each crêpe we ate.

We all sat together around a large table where everyone could participate in the same lively conversation. It was always exciting and stimulating.

Bob Denkwalter (who was nominated for a Nobel Prize in science) extolled the virtues of peanut butter, which he most likely carried on expeditions up the world’s highest mountains. He, his wife Betty, and their houseful of kids filled their sprawling, historic log cabin perched above the Ottauquechee River Valley. They drove up from New Jersey like we did.

Two more new friends we met at Sport Hill were Alice Sciore and her mother, Helen. They moved to Vermont from New Jersey, as well. Alice, a lively fine and graphic artist, struck me as being talented and prolific—like an Italian Georgia O’Keefe—tall, lanky, a natural beauty, but with wild fantastic curly black hair. Her dramatic voice and presence later remind me of Cher.

Helen was short and rather rotund. She dressed in dark colors like Italian grandmothers and wore her hair pulled back in a bun. Helen seemed quiet, sweet and demure but when engaged in conversation, her hands flew through the air and brought out her pure Italian-ness. She excelled in tasty Italian cuisine. Alice and Helen always arrived with Italian specialties like fresh ricotta cheese, sweet hazelnut or fruity cream spread, and home-grown tomatoes and herbs like basil from the garden they cultivated in their driveway. Whatever they sowed in their raised garden bed flourished like Jack’s reveled beanstalk.

You never knew who you’d meet next at the weekly crêpe breakfast. The conversations were diverse and fascinating with stories and discussions on multiple topics with differing opinions from Killington Mountain goings on to art, history, science and world travels.

Bob shared his arduous climb up Mt. McKinley and other explorations in Alaska where some of his family later moved. Killington hikes were described in detail, like to Plymouth’s abandoned silver mine, Deer Leap, No Town above River Road, and the best gold panning streams around. Everyone told of their animal encounters, and with several artists, creative projects were presented. One day Ann took me aside to show me the delicate wildflower border she was painting atop the walls of Walter’s bedroom for his birthday.

Dad liked attending when Bob Denkwalter was there to get the low down on heaven-knows-what, probably regarding construction. Mom and I loved dining on crêpes and the colorful people who gathered there. It was a Bohemian Parisian salon that may have inspired the salons in our home. As a young girl, I felt very grown up being included with all the adults. They made me feel accepted and special. I soaked up their creativity like a thirsty sponge.

Vermont is known for its independent thinkers and brilliant creative characters who are either born or flock here. It’s no wonder we’re all crazy about Vermont, the very best place in the nation, our beloved Green Mountain State!

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Killington and Bradenton, Floria. She can be reached at: jilldyestudio@aol.com.

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